18 May 2017 | 27 Comments
I’m at a convention today, so this guest post is brought to you by Daniel Zayas. I’ve been in contact with Daniel through various Kickstarter communities on Facebook for a while now, and I thought he’d have some helpful insights for my fellow creators.
My name is Daniel Zayas, and I am a Kickstarter Expert.
No, really. I am! This is not the same thing as someone claiming to be a social media guru or a marketing wizard. Kickstarter staff vetted me similar to how they would a job interview. They reached out to references and asked me about how I help campaigns fund. Then they listed me here, along with a handful of other legitimate consulting businesses.
So then what exactly is a Kickstarter Expert?
Kickstarter Experts are paid consultants with experience running and advising successful Kickstarter projects. These consultants are not directly affiliated with Kickstarter, and Kickstarter does not earn a referral fee if you hire an Expert. Kickstarter Experts help with campaign strategy, storytelling, backer engagement and management, and more (emphasis on the “more”).
Here are the most recent examples of how I have worked with creators to develop campaigns which have the best shot at being successful.
People want to feel like they know how to play a game before they support a campaign financially.
This truth has evolved from rulebooks and how-to-play videos. On Skyways, currently on Kickstarter, I worked with the Eagle-Gryphon Games team to ensure we were teaching people the game in no more than 4-5 steps using gifs and clear text instructions.
This storytelling element is arguably the most important part of a campaign. This section needs to act as a friend casually teaching the game to a would-be customer. I picked up this neat trick from extensive conversations with Kim Brebach, who used this in his Unfair campaign, and James Hudson, who repeated this successful tactic in The Grimm Forest. This brings me to my next point…
The board game community is small. The Kickstarter board game community is smaller still.
The Bridges to Nowhere team, Doomsday Robots, added me to their project a few weeks before launch. What they were having trouble with primarily was marketing, as most creators might be familiar with.
In marketing, the goal is to never need to send a press release. After all, why would you send a press release to a friend? Rather, the goal is to develop mutually beneficial friendships with industry influencers and stakeholders so they organically find out about your projects.
I helped the Doomsday Robots team with marketing decisions and page layout the same as every other campaign, but I also sped up quite a few online interactions where they were not getting replies fast enough.
My advice to new creators is to join the Board Game Reviewers Facebook Group and then join the groups in this file. Make genuine connections to people in these groups and they will help you when you need them.
Create a Minimum Viable Product.
With A.E.G.I.S., currently on Kickstarter, the biggest hurdle the Zephyr Workshop team and I overcame was how to package an infinitely expandable game system efficiently.
At first, the team had built the game as separate core box sets, so the funding goal reflected the need to manufacture 3-4 different products within one campaign. This tactic unfortunately resulted in two failed campaigns.
We worked to create one minimum viable product, and then stretch to include new robots and terrain tiles. This strategy required a lot of attention to the cost of goods and scales of economy. We needed to price the game accurately if we unlocked no stretch goals, but also for if we unlocked all stretch goals. Then we needed to find a happy space in that quote which takes into account a customer’s perceived value in a pledge!
I am happy to report that this effort was well worthwhile, as the campaign funded in the first day and is still going strong.
Art is king, and the king requires parading.
I joined Mystic Tiger Games’ Manaforge project mid-campaign, and at the time the campaign had stalled and didn’t look too promising. In talking with the creator, I asked him, “What is the coolest thing about your game?” His answer was that the mechanics are very fun.
I quickly corrected him and reminded him about all the great artwork which had been produced for the game, most of which the public had no idea existed. There wasn’t enough art examples on the campaign, or shared on social media.
So we got to work reformatting the page for best practices and showered fans on social media with tons of Manaforge artwork, which reinvigorated interest in the game. When those people arrived at the polished campaign, Manaforge skyrocketed from its initial stagnation and we funded.
The basics of a game campaign are still important. What has changed is how you polish the presentation.
Loot and Recruit will be relaunching later this month after a couple years’ hiatus, and we heavily updated the previous campaign to reflect what backers expect now. Using the old campaign, you can see that they already had a 3D box setup, reviews, a rulebook, a how-to-play video, a basic gameplay explanation, list of components, pledge level explanations, stretch goals, a team section, and a thank you section.
Now, if you compare that with the new campaign, the same items are there, but the order and format has changed quite a bit:
- Instead of a 3D Box, now you have the game setup.
- Instead of many heavy text reviews, we’ve opened with video content.
- Instead of the wordy how-to-play section, we have used simple instructions with gifs.
- The card art in the components section is now our star, versus being hidden in the old campaign.
- The pledge levels were reduced to present an easier decision for backers.
- The stretch goals now have the thematic flair of a Dr. Seuss-like stack of goblins.
- There is even now a dedicated shipping section with a polished graphic.
All of these things set an okay campaign apart from a campaign you know is going to do really well.
I hope to have shed some light on the Kickstarter Experts program and how I help creators build campaigns which fund. To be clear, I think Kickstarter is still an open platform for anyone of any experience level to create new products without a Kickstarter Expert. The difference is that many new creators (even Stonemaier Games) learned a lot from each campaign they ran and strived to avoid those same pitfalls in future campaigns.
I started three years ago as green as any new creator. Through many hours studying nearly every launched campaign, as well as through communication with Jamey Stegmaier, James Mathe, Timothy Cassavetes, and countless others, I have developed a very reliable system which continuously updates based on what I observe on Kickstarter itself. I currently blog and hustle on dzayas.com, publishing a weekly list of my favorite tabletop Kickstarter campaigns. Thanks to Jamey for inviting me to do this blog post. Feel free to friend me on Facebook or Snapchat and I hope to connect with you all soon!